Hearing access specialists
Hearing access specialists

A drawing of four people in a meeting near the Hearing Access Protocol logo

Hearing access: what it is and why it matters every bit as much as mobility access

Hearing access is about making it more possible for more people to more easily hear and follow the spoken word and other audible information.

It recognises how enormously we rely on spoken language in every day life, and how fundamental communication is to human nature.

Hearing access is crucial for ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion.  It is as valid and vital as physical and mobility access.

It is a particular problem in meetings, conferences and events.  That’s why we developed the UK’s first Hearing Access Protocol.

Download a short leaflet about HEARING ACCESS

Hearing access and COVID-19

People are being disabled and disadvantaged unnecessarily

Level of hearing is often NOT the determinant for how well someone will hear and follow what is said.  Most people, even if they have hearing loss, can hear and follow what is said well or adequately so long as the environment is right.

Line drawing of a manFor instance:

  • Scenario 1:  John can hear and follow with ease and confidence when he attends a work meeting, even though he has substantial hearing loss.
  • Scenario 2:  John finds it nearly impossible to discern and understand what is said when an hour later he attends a different work meeting.

The dramatic difference is not caused by a sudden change to John’s actual hearing; it is caused by things relating to the venue, meeting arrangements or the people in the meeting.

Hearing access is about managing the elements that affect the way people hear and follow what is said and that an individual on their own cannot control.

There is no need for people with hearing loss to struggle as much and as often as they do.  Poor experiences are often linked with issues that are FIXABLE.

Communication disadvantage (and discrimination against people with hearing loss) often occurs because businesses and organisations are unaware or unsure of their duties and responsibilities, and people with hearing loss are uncertain what they can ask for and expect.

Workshops, Webinars and Talks on hearing access

See the Hearing Access Protocol

Legal reasons to focus on hearing access

There are legal duties to ensure access and to attend to the rights of all groups of the population.  These include:

  • Equality Act 2010 – sets out the requirement to avoid discriminating against disabled people, including those with hearing loss.
  • Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 – sets out the right to receiving information in a way you can understand.
  • Public sector duties – such as the Patient Rights Act 2011 (in Scotland) and the Accessible Information Standard (in England & Wales).
  • UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities – recognises the requirement to ensure disabled people get support so they can enjoy the same rights as everyone else.

There are also Global Goals

The government is also committed to meeting the United National Sustainable Development Goals, which provides a blueprint for how to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Better hearing access will help the UK to achieve:

  • Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 11 Sustainable Cities & Communities

What people say

Speaking the Scottish Parliament in 2019, Mark Griffing MSP and Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Deafness, stated:

It is vitally important that we consider how hearing access is prioritised to ensure greater public involvement and participation …

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament in 2019,  Jeremy Balfour MSP and Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Disability, said:

Hearing access needs to be a priority …  Sadly, by and large, the environment in many workplaces is still not right for people with hearing loss.

Speaking in 2019, Scottish Government Minister, Clare Haughey MSP & Minister for Mental Health, said:

I’m grateful that the See Hear National Coordinator worked closely with partners to support and promote the Ideas for Ears’ Hearing Access Protocol for ensuring accessible meeting spaces throughout the country.

Professor Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland:


Janis McDonald, Chief Officer of Scotland’s leading deafness organisation, deafscotland:


Morven Brooks, Chief Executive Officer, Disability Equality Scotland: